William Wilkerson, Scout.com

Changes Coming for Longhorns?

Charlie Strong had a lot to say at his Monday press conference after the Texas Longhorns got beat 38-3 at Notre Dame on Saturday. Here are 20 notes/thoughts from what he said.

[Note: More coming from players, including Swoopes, in a bit]

Here is Charlie Strong’s opening statement:

“The outcome was not what we expected and is not acceptable. We are going to take our time and start all over again. As coaches we know we have to coach better, and players need to play better. You want to restart the season and push that button.

We went out to work last night. We went back to the game on Saturday and it’s all about corrections, executing the plays that didn’t work.

This is a program that’s built on a lot of tradition and pride. There’s no quite in this football team. It’s all about us getting ready for Rice. They are an outstanding program.

We have many issues that we need to get corrected starting with the offensive side of the football. It’s about moving the football, getting first downs and first downs will lead to scores.

We can’t give up the big play on defense. You get the game back to 17-3 and get the ball pinned inside the 10 yard line, then they end up throwing a big pass play on us.

I have to do a better job of being totally involved. I am involved in offense. When it comes to third downs I tell them if I want to run or pass, and I deal with the two-minute situation.

On defense I do call some of the plays and I am even involved in the kicking game. But we just have to make sure we evaluate it as a coaching staff. We have to get better. I know this, we are a better football team than what we showed Saturday. “

 

1. Strong said it’s an evaluation process as to whether or not offensive coaches are coaching for their jobs. More on that in a bit. He did say that assigning new play-caller duties won’t be a part of the evaluation. He just wants to see Texas move the ball and get into the end zone.

 

2. Strong said a decision on whether Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard would be the starting quarterback against Rice would come later this week.

“We ended up wanting to lay both of them in the first half, which we did. In the second half when it got to 17-3 and then 24-3 we just felt like Tyrone would do a better job of getting us back in the game.”

Strong said they can’t go through another season with a bad offense.

“That cannot happen,” he said. “We have some talented players.”

 

3. It sounds like there will be much more of a concerted effort to get Johnathan Gray involved in the game plan a lot earlier and more often after he didn’t get a carry until the third possession on Saturday. He finished with eight carries for 40 yards.

“He’s the back that needs the ball,” he said. “The ball needs to be fed to him anywhere from 15 to 25 times. Our offense has to run through our running backs. We have to run the football.”

Sounds like a part of the reason Gray didn’t get more touches was because Texas wasn’t getting first downs and Swoopes was trying to scramble around under constant pressure.

Strong didn’t get any excuses though. He knows they have to get Gray the ball.

“In the touches that he had, J Gray, he had big runs,” he said. “But you have to have something in the run and pass.”

 

4. It definitely sounds like Shawn Watson’s job is on the line if he doesn’t help put this offense in better positions to succeed and get more points on the board.

"We have to evaluate," Strong said. "I know Shawn is the coordinator. We have to evaluate this week and see where we are. We have to change and see where we are. We come out of this one with three points. With the players that we have we should have more than that.”

 

5. Strong said he is going to let Vance Bedford handle more of the defensive calls while he focuses more on what happens offensively.

“If I don’t like a call I’ll say ‘Whoa, whoa, let’s think about this. It’s a whole thinking process. One play has to set up the next.”

 

6. You knew the questions about Strong’s job security were going to start eventually with losses like this, and they came on Monday when he was asked how critical this season is to him staying on as Texas’ head coach.

“It’s very critical. Our goal is to win the conference championship,” he said. “We have to go play well and be productive. We need to go play well. There’s millions and millions of people involved in this program. We need to give them hope. They need to see progress.

“After the other night, when you look at the game, you say we were going to be up-tempo, we weren’t up-tempo. There has to be hope and progress.”

 

7. Strong didn’t say much to his staff yesterday because he said he would have probably said stuff he would regret later. He’ll meet with staff today.

“Truthfully I didn’t say much [to them on Sunday],” he said. “I will meet with the staff today. It’s hard for me after a game to meet with the guys on a Sunday because of the way I feel. I might say some things that I will probably regret later. It bothers me when we play the way we did. It bothers me when we’re not productive. It bothers me when we’re not accountable as coaches. It’s hard for me.

“I have a lot to say but I’m not going to say it now.”

 

8. There were some questions after I posted some team notes late Sunday about whether the team did in fact practice on Sunday. They did. And that’s normal. Texas practices on Sundays and takes Mondays off.

 

9. Sounds like there will be a focus on trying to help keep Texas’ offensive line out of 1-on-1 situations. There are things the staff will do to try to give them more help.

One thing I saw Gray start to do a lot more of in the second half was rub off the edge and shoulder a defender on his way to running routes. Expect more of that against the better teams.

 

10. There’s no question that Shawn Watson is a big supporter of Tyrone Swoopes’ and some have questioned whether that may be clouding Watson’s judgment at the position.

Strong was asked about that and gave an interesting response:

“He can be clouded but the thing about it [is] we have to win,” Strong said. “The best person has to run with that position. At the end of the day, the best one is going to line up.”

 

11. This won’t surprise you but on defense Strong said it was all about execution, or lack thereof, for the Longhorns. Take ND’s first TD for example when it appeared as though Dylan Haines was at fault for getting beat across the middle.

“One play, the first touchdown when he comes across the middle, we had a Red 2 call, where the backer has to drop to the middle of the field but he saw a guy coming underneath and he took the bait, and the ball was thrown over him,” Strong said.

 

12. The Longhorns defensive front definitely didn’t play up to the standard many thought they would have, albeit against a damn good Notre Dame front. Part of the reason for that was the play of Texas’ senior-most DTs Tank Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway.

Sounds like both of them are still working their way back from injury a bit.

“Tank is still getting there,” Strong said. “With his foot injury he is moving but not a the speed e needs. With Ridgeway, he needs to get into shape.”

 

13.  Found this to be a pretty interesting statement by Strong when asked about Swoopes and Heard: “It wasn’t like there was a big separation between those two.”

 

14. There has to be concern amongst the staff that losses like this are piling up and will eventually have an impact on recruits. Strong knows they need to put a better product on the field.

“It’s all about recruiting,” he said. “They need to see improvement and change. It’s good that we have more games so we’ll have an opportunity. I was talking to one recruit before we even played the game and he said, ‘Oh coach I can’t wait to see this up-tempo offense and see what happens.’  I don’t think he saw what he wanted to see.”

 

15. Malik Jefferson was asked why recruits should still believe in the Longhorns to which he replied, simply: “Potential.”

“You can’t run away from something that’s going to be great in the next five years,” he said.

Why is he so convinced of that?

“Because of my class,” he said. “I don’t speak highly of myself or kids in my class but there is something special about us. The talks that we have. The meetings we have. The relationships we’ve built throughout the whole process have been great. It could be this year, it doesn’t matter. We will be great. Eventually it’s going to start. One day.

 

16. Andrew Beck said there were three times on Saturday when the Longhorns had 10 players on special teams. It happened at least once on the punt team but he didn’t specify when the other two times occurred. I mean, are you serious?

 

17. Marcus Johnson is day-to-day with an ankle injury. He got rolled up on and was seen on the sidelines and after the game walking with a boot.

 

18. Strong pointed out two players on defense that played well. One was not a surprise: Malik Jefferson. The other might come as a surprise to you.

“Malik did an unbelievable job,” he said. “The two guys that played really well on defense were Malik and Duke Thomas.”

 

19. Strong pointed out Kris Boyd and Breckyn Hager were tremendous on special teams.

“Boyd was unbelievable on the kicking game,” Strong said. “Boyd and Hager have one job: Get to the ball. Don’t worry about lanes or anything else. Just get to the football on kickoff. “

 

20: NOTABLE QUOTES

CHARLIE STRONG ON IF HE’S EXPERIENCED ANYTHING LIKE THE LAST THREE GAMES AT ANY OTHER POINT IN HIS CAREER: “It’s very uncharted. The last three showings we’ve had have been embarrassing. I told our staff it’s been embarrassing. You have to continue to build confidence. As a head football coach they are still going to feed off you. It’s about how I approach it. I can’t be down because then all of a sudden they will be down. It’s about going back to work.”

 

STRONG ON IF JOBS ARE ON THE LINE: “Some of these coaches I’ve been with for a long time so they know how I am. They know how I feel. I’m not afraid to express how I feel. They’ve heard it from Day 1. It’s an evaluation process.”

 

STRONG ON EXPECTATIONS: “Everybody has a reason to overreact.  Everyone wants more, which they should. We have enough. We have to be better.”

 

STRONG ON IF THERE WERE THINGS ON OFFENSE WE AREN’T SEEING: “I was hoping I’d see a big difference myself,” he said with a smirk.

 

STRONG: “It’s about play-calling. We have to mix it up.”

 


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